Monday, 28 January 2013

Baby steps...

I've had my eye on these colourful hexagons for quite a long time. I saw them in an American magazine in the form of a huge bedspread. Having only just learnt how to crochet I thought that I would eventually make one of these bedspreads myself. How little my knowledge of crochet was back then!! I think it would take me years to make enough of these for a bedspread.

So I have done just a small taster to see if I liked them and felt driven to do a quantity of them. Yes I do like them but no I don't feel hugely driven to make hundreds of them. I may just make a baby size blanket and stash it away for the first friend or family member to need such a thing! Might be quite a while then.

Sunday, 27 January 2013


It is not very often that I abandon a book. I do sometimes start one and then put it aside if it seems to be something I am not quite in the mood for, but that doesn't happen very often. Ugh is how I feel about my latest book. I lost count of how many characters were introduced in the first chapter or two and they kept coming. I couldn't visualise them very well and couldn't place them either because they all seemed to be congregating in one large house.

In sign language if you are talking about more than one person you 'place' them visually so that next time you refer to them you effectively point to that same place. Sign language doesn't come naturally to me but this was a revelation; how easy on the ears it is just to see who you are talking about. I'm not sure if that will make much sense to anyone actually.

Anyway, the author would have helped the memory game with characters if she had maybe described the room and placed the characters. I might have remembered who they all were and what they looked like better. It was impossible for my poor memory so I had to give up. I skipped to the end to solve the mystery of the book title and tossed it on the charity pile. Maybe someone with a sharper memory will enjoy it.


This is what happens when your husband treats the dog like a third child; he sneaks up onto the bed for a crafty nap. He did look cute against the crochet so I snapped a few pictures before reintroducing him to his equally cosy bed furnished with a recently handed down child's sleeping bag. This dog lives in the land of the luxury I tell you!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Simple, cosy...

I thought I would show you the two pattern books I picked up this week on my train travels...

The crochet one is by Rowan from their 'Studio' series. Number 29. Mostly serious garments requiring serious concentration but I liked the large wrap which looks appealing for winter evenings. It uses three strands of something but I think I would just use a chunky yarn in the first place. Since size isn't critical it could be a good stash buster, I have enough aran to do this one.

The other booklet (they are both roughly A5 in size by the way) is by Sarah Hatton. 10 More, Simple Cosy Projects. Who could resist a title like that in this weather? I like the knitted hat (see pics below) which is done on two needles with an optional bobble. Looks nice and simple, quick and fun and could stash bust one ball of chunky plus remnants for the bobble.

What do you reckon to the look on the models face? Reminds me of a certain teenager when you've woken her too early in the morning or asked her to put her cup in the dishwasher!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Venturing out...

I've spent a little bit of my adult life struggling to leave the house on my own. I think I am getting over that phase now. I'm not sure how it happened. It kind of crept up on me. Agoraphobic is a word that feels too strong for what I experienced as I was happy to leave the house with someone. If I'm honest I think it was a lot to do with losing my confidence along with my residual hearing. I didn't think I was interacting too badly with people in shops, cafes, banks etc until I suddenly had children old enough to point it out. That's probably when I started feeling like I was making a fool of myself every time I went out.

Difficult areas are things like questions in shops, eg. Would you like a bag, would you like cashback, can I have your postcode please? I usually say no thank you to everything just to be on the safe side but obviously that doesn't work with the latter question, which I have said no thank you to before now. It would be nice to join in with polite chit chat once in a while. I'm sure cashiers think I am rude when I don't. Then there is the dark side and believe me I've experienced it all. People who have rammed pushchairs or trolleys into my heels because they think I have deliberately ignored their 'excuse me' (one such incident cut my heel and bled all over the shop).

I've been happy at home. I always have some knitting or crochet on the go. It's been easy to hide this problem. M gets the odd day off and I usually request that we go out and explore, citing my desire to get to know Lincolnshire better as a reason.

I can't remember what the turning point was but there was a moment when I thought that I needed to cure myself. I think it might have been last February when my Nan died. I did a lot of reflecting. The first step was to confide in someone, and I did. The next step was to celebrate any occasion that I made it out of the house, and I did. I still tell myself that this would be easier if I lived in Sussex and I could take myself off to all the places I knew and loved as a child. Castles, parks, towns, the coast, friends etc etc. That's probably just a deferral technique. Another is 'driving'. I have chronic neck ache when I drive for more than half an hour; which brings me to the real subject of this post and something that took place yesterday...

M had a day off and I said I would like to go out. Some of the country lanes round here are not well gritted so we didn't want to go far in the car. I said I would rather go to an art gallery than go shopping but we looked up current exhibitions and nothing appealed. M loves to deal in surprises so we headed off in the car. I thought we were heading out to Woodhall Spa where there is a nice patch of woodland to walk through but no, we turned off and drove into the station car park, where M announced that we were going to get on the first train to leave the station and end up wherever that one was going.

You may think this is odd but this is my idea of fun. I love spontaneity! We paid less than a tenner each and ended up on a one coach train to Peterborough of all places. It took an hour and twenty minutes. M was quiet with his Times crossword and coffee and I gazed out of the window and marvelled at the snow covered fields and the amazing tell tale signs of wildlife. There were tracks everywhere. Fox, birds, rabbits, deer. I learnt to recognise these as a child by making my own nature diaries. I was so pleased to see enormous hares, rabbits, pheasant, partridges, a fox and what I can only assume was an owl. It was quite big with a huge head but I only got a fleeting glance. The snow was like seeing bacteria under an ultra violet light or whatever it is they do to reveal where it has all spread. It was like that with the tracks in the snow. Not only that but there was a beautiful little graveyard which must be hundreds of years old, and some amazing derelict mills which would be incredible restored into some kind of useful building again.

We were booked on a specific train to come back so we didn't have a lot of time in the city itself. Just enough time to have lunch in a little cafe that we knew of, browse a few book shops and pick up some small pattern books from John Lewis. We got take away tea and coffee for the journey back (and another crossword for M) and I settled down by the window again to watch the world go by.

Then it struck me that I could actually do that on my own sometime. Previously I thought all trains from here to Peterborough went on to London and having been on those many times know they are overcrowded and incredibly fast. This was a much quieter service. Suddenly the world seems a more accessible place... and the best bit? The ticket collector didn't ask if I wanted a bag or cashback!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

How do you choose your colours?

I am still snuffly and flu-like but I can feel my concentration levels slowly creeping back. It's been a chilled out week of short forays in the snow with the dog then darting back underneath a thick woollen blanket with a hot mug of tea.

Though I haven't ventured far from the house I feel as though I have been travelling... one of my Christmas books was set in Burma, Mandalay and India. I read it, enjoyed it, read a couple of other books and then fancied a return trip to India; hence my latest choice. E knows what I mean when I say I like it travel in a book - one of her favourite books of all time is The Garbage King by Elizabeth Laird. It's a good read even for an adult.

Anyway, with one foot back in the land of the living I am feeling more enthusiastic about crochet. The pic below is how far I have got with crocheting my scraps into stripes. I plaited the ends and now quite fancy it as a scarf after all, despite the revolting colour scheme; well actually there is no colour scheme. It is tempting to keep going and make it into a blanket but I could use it as a scarf now and turn it into a blanket later.

All this random colour made me want to put a proper colour scheme together and that leads me to the question 'how do you put colours together?'. I think I am pretty rubbish at this for an ex graphic designer, especially when it comes to the bright and cheerful look. I have studied patchwork blankets for clues but I can't see any hard and fast rules. It seems a case of 'try it and see'. Any thoughts welcome.

M has treated me to a whole armful of Stylecraft Life colours. We just picked the ones that appealed: Claret, Rose, Cranberry, Fuchsia, Cardinal, Olive, Navy, Denim, Fern, Cobalt and Copper. I have a project and pattern in mind. More on that later. I guess I will just 'try it and see'.

Teddy in the snow...

The dog is officially mad. He buried Teddy in the garden some time ago (It never occurred to me to give a dog a soft toy until I met M) and chose today to dig him up and play with him in the snow.

Teddy used to be grey but now he's a rabbity shade of brown... so you can imagine what I was about to shout out to M when I saw a dead looking bundle of brown fur on the decking this morning! I realised what it was just in time.

E and J were not too impressed that their school was open today. The school bus service wasn't running so not surprisingly only about half of the usual numbers turned up today. Had it not been for M insisting on school they would have had a day off today. Bah humbug!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Flash and Batman...

Sadly the hamster died a few days ago. It was a bit of a shock all round. She was extremely well looked after. Clean, fed and fresh water daily. Naturally as a Mum I questioned my decision to allow E to have the pet and therefore the upset but I can safely say she did nothing wrong; we must have just been unlucky.

Initially we were not going to replace the hamster with a new one but on speaking to the pet shop to double check whether there was anything we did wrong we did come away with two new hamsters. Roborovski Hamsters! They are incredibly small; about the size of a Ferrero Rocher! Extremely cute but extremely fast and therefore tricky to photograph.

They are girls but they have been named Flash and Batman. They are very entertaining. They don't go round each other, they go over. The speed at which they scratch an ear would give a hummingbird's wings a run for their money. Fingers crossed they last a bit longer!


I think it could be very productive if we were snowed in more often. As well as a bit of gluten free baking (muffins), M has been labouring over a batch of marmalade. Seville oranges no less. I do like marmalade but the smell of the oranges whilst simmering was quite overpowering. I won't be consuming very much of the finished product because of the high sugar content but I have had a small taste and it is extremely good! M is very proud of himself!

The ingredients came as part of a kit from Riverford ( which includes oranges, lemons and the recipe. They also have a video tutorial online. Just add sugar and your own jars. Easy peasy apparently (M did work up a sweat though and at one stage didn't think it would reach the setting stage).

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Snowed in...

I believe some serious snowman building is going to take place today; just as soon as E and maybe J (he is a bit poorly) complete the 'see who can get the most layers on' competition. I fear J will not last long dressed up for arctic conditions when he is already running a temperature.

J and I have some kind of unpleasant flu thing. This photo is my view for the moment. A bed tray with a pile of books and a packet of flu capsules. Those are the only two things I need at the moment and even the books are quite challenging to concentrate on.

M is doing a sterling job of keeping the tea flowing and very nice tea it is too. With our new tea pot we use loose leaf tea from Stokes in Lincoln; a blend which is ideal for hard water areas, and for the first time the tea actually tastes like tea. I am converted.

So today will probably be like the last few days; have a cup of tea, sleep, read a few pages, sleep, have a cup of tea...

Funny how dogs know when you are ill; Harvey keeps sneaking his way into my bedroom and cautiously snuggling up under my chin while I sleep. Aw!

Thursday, 17 January 2013


A frozen old oak tree
Frosty bamboo
Cobwebs on my workshop
Icy beech leaves
Cobwebs on the shed
Cobwebs on the playhouse
Come on! It's only minus 6, walkies!
Throw me a snowball!
Ah, defrosting slowly

Monday, 14 January 2013

Icing sugar...

I happened to look outside at midnight last night and saw the first of the snow falling. The novelty and excitement never leaves you it seems. I tossed and turned and got up to have the occasional peep. This morning it wasn't as deep and crisp and even as I would have liked but it still looks like a dusting of icing sugar.

The dog was the lucky one who got to make footprints in the freshly laid snow. Several thousand of them probably; he runs about like a headless chicken. I have never known a dog feel the cold so easily though! He comes in shivering on a day like today; it's very strange.

He is tucked up in his basket under the old church pew in our hall, next to the radiator. He will soon warm up.

I feel very snug in my flannel lounge pants and sweatshirt. I'm on my second cup of tea of the day. I have been so unfocused since the start of the new year that I am only capable of crocheting something that needs no thought or concentration.

I had thoughts of a scrappy scarf and cast on about 5 feet of foundation stitches, did several rows and realised that no-one in their right minds would wear such a thing around their neck so I will keep going but turn it into a blanket. Just straight rows of half trebles on a 4.5mm hook using mainly DK scraps. Should be done in about a year!

Sunday, 13 January 2013


A little bit of show and tell today! Look at this gorgeous yarn from M at Christmas. He had the good sense to ask for help with choosing and described my taste as 'natural, nature inspired and with a touch of luxury'. Mmmmh! He has been paying attention after all!

Llama, angora and silk blend each with the corresponding knit pro crochet hook. Needless to say I have been deliberating over what to make with this luxury bundle. Wrist warmers are a strong contender because I only have a hugely chunky pair which are great for warmth but look a bit ridiculous and you need an overnight bag just to carry them around when your hands overheat (yes that's how chunky they are!).

Oh yes, and you see that equally gorgeous silk crochet hook roll? Thank you to my brother and L, I love it. My previous hook roll was designed for knitting needles; so it was, quite frankly, rubbish for storing hooks!

In the meantime I am looking at my basket of odds and ends and thinking of doing a 'using up' scarf with thanks to T at Driftwood (link in my sidebar; I still can't do links from blogger for ipad) for inspiration. T is using sock yarn for a shawl and it is absolutely gorgeous. Since I don't knit or crochet socks I will have to dig out all my DK odds and ends.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre

Every now and then I get a little bit homesick. I miss the accents that I grew up with and even after all these years struggle with the various regional accents I encounter up here. Just half an hour in any direction and the accent changes quite drastically. Rather than moan about it I tend to just want to get out and about and explore the region I am living in, perhaps in the hope that there will be a little corner somewhere that feels like home, or perhaps just because that's what we did when we were children; at least we always seemed to take the dog somewhere different every weekend!

M obliged today and after running a few boring errands we headed in the direction of the Lincolnshire Wolds. I wouldn't go as far as using language like skippity heart beats but I do feel something quite powerful when I see proper hills. Is there any better feeling than climbing one and sitting at the top to admire the view?

We just had time to stop in Caistor for coffee and lunch at a place that was featured in a programme called 'Village SOS'. The building is called The Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre. It is part library, part cafe and part heritage centre. There was a small exhibition of photo-etchings there today. I was glad that gluten free was catered for in the cafe and found that their rocky road was gluten free too! Happy days!

We had a short walk mainly around the market square which was interesting for its Georgian architecture. Apparently a fire in 1681 nearly wiped the whole place out. Some of the road names were entertaining; Duck Lane even featured a topiary duck. There was also Horse Market and Butter Market.

There were tiny little alleyways and side streets that reminded me a little of Rye in Sussex though Caistor is tiny in comparison. One thing is for sure, the roads up here are nothing like they are in the South; the country lanes were very quiet on the way home. I do like quiet roads.

Monday, 7 January 2013

A visit to the tropics...

On the last day of the Christmas break and with everything washed and ready I was keen to get everyone out of the house for some fresh air today. Suggestions of long muddy walks are not usually received enthusiastically. The children like their technology too much and it has to be said so does M. However, put an old pinboard in front of them, with 'Post Its' of all the local places we could go and suddenly it becomes a competition to choose our destination for the day! They forget that they didn't want to go anywhere in the first place!

We compromised today and headed for the Tropical House in Lincoln. It is only small but it offers up a few photo opportunities; handy if you've left your GCSE photography homework until the last minute! It looked a bit neglected today; a bit of litter, dirty beanbags and a dead fish. I even felt like dusting the big leaves of the cheese plants!

Away from twitter, playstation but sadly not away from the iPhone, we did manage to have a good chat and laugh over big cups of coffee and hot chocolates just a short walk into town. Today was quite an amusing day for people watching. An unusual man with a rubber mask on walked into our coffee shop (and removed the mask thank goodness), selected a cake, threw it on the floor, announced he wasn't paying for it, scooped it up tightly in his fisted hand and left whilst stuffing it in his mouth. A tried and tested method of getting a free cake methinks!

Friday, 4 January 2013

Our five yearly trip...

I managed to persuade M to indulge me in a family day out to IKEA! We last went about five years ago with much huffing and puffing and everything we bought then has been in constant use since. It was talk of meatballs and pasta sauce that finally did the trick (but I have to say the food was a bit disappointing).

Our shopping list wasn't ambitious at all; 6 mugs for the mug tree, magazine files, a picture frame, a tea pot with a built in strainer (for loose leaf tea) and a tray. We found everything except for the right size frame.

We spent the longest in the toy department despite Jake proving that they are both too tall and old for IKEA children's furniture now (see photos!). Ella couldn't resist a cuddly rabbit, felt pens, coloured chalks and new pads of paper. Jake had always wanted an IKEA snake. I guess you are never too old for cuddly toys.

Although it was a conquest of sorts getting M to agree to go, I didn't let on that I would be happy not to go again for another five years! I much prefer junk shops!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Happy New Year!

Christmas came and went all too quickly. It was nice and relaxed this year. The children turned twelve and fifteen in December. I can hardly believe it. On the one hand it's less faffing about with Santa's cookies and special deliveries. On the other it is a little sad.

Lots of nice presents exchanged hands. I am snug in my cashmere sweater, and the bright red colour is a nice change from charcoal grey according to my family.

Yarn and knit pro hooks were in my special delivery. Perfume and books too. Oh and Mrs Claus picked up a cue I didn't realise I had given (I said I wished we had chosen something more exciting for our wedding dinner set than plain old white Denby) and started us off with the gorgeous Halo range. I absolutely love it.

The mountain boards went down very well with the children who by and large managed to stay upright on them at a popular sledging hill we knew of. I on the other hand, did not manage to stay upright. I think my mountain boarding days are over. There were mutters of disapproval about our two county cricketers doing something slightly dangerous just before the cricket season but as Ella would say, 'YOLO'. You only live once.

On a more sedate note, M and I learnt to play backgammon. My brother and Lili bought mum and dad a set a few years ago and so I nudged them in the same direction for us this year. It's great, I love it. Now I just need to work on tearing M away from his iPhone and iPad for a game now and then.

Mollie came with us to my parents house for Christmas this year. We usually leave her in the capable hands of a young neighbour but she tends to turn into a psycho rodent killer and sometimes brings her conquests inside. Not only that but mum has never been keen on cats. Well not only did Mollie surprise us by not fighting the neighbourhood cats, or running away, or shredding the curtains, she revelled in being the centre of attention! She curled up on anyone's lap and sprawled out in front of the fire and showed off by leaping in and out of a cardboard box. Who knew we had such a diva on our hands? She hid behind a sofa for three months when Harvey joined the household so we imagined 'change' was not something she was good at.

Going back to school on 8th now seems a long way off. I am keen to get back to school and work routines that leaves me to get on top of the housework and start implementing the big clear outs I am dreaming of. Hopefully this will be the year of the big kitchen knock through too. Oh joy. Mess and dust and nipping out to the caravan to cook dinner!

That just leaves me to wish you all health and happiness for 2013. Thank you for dropping by.

Juanita x